Background: This study examined the associations of job control, organizational justice and bullying at the workplace with emotional exhaustion. This was done by adjusting firstly for age and occupational class, secondly physical work factors, thirdly mutually adjusting for the three psychosocial factors and fourthly adjusting for all studied variables simultaneously.Data were derived from the Helsinki Health Study baseline surveys conducted in 2001 and 2002, including 40-60-year-old employees of the City of Helsinki (n = 5819, response rate 66%). Exhaustion was measured with a six-item subscale from Maslach Burnout Inventory (MBI). Psychosocial factors included Karasek's job control, organizational justice and bullying at the workplace. Logistic regression analysis was used.
Results: Among women 23% and among men 20% reported symptoms of emotional exhaustion. Among women all psychosocial factors were associated with exhaustion when adjusted for age and occupational class as confounders. When physical work factors were additionally adjusted for, the associations slightly attenuated but remained. When psychosocial work factors were simultaneously adjusted for each other, their associations with exhaustion attenuated but remained. Among men all psychosocial factors were associated with exhaustion when adjusted for confounders only. When adjusted for physical work factors the associations slightly attenuated. When psychosocial factors were simultaneously adjusted for each other, associations of organizational justice and bullying with exhaustion attenuated but remained whereas job control lost its association.
Conclusions: Identifying risk factors for emotional exhaustion is vital for preventing subsequent processes leading to burnout. Psychosocial factors are likely to contribute to exhaustion among female as well as male employees. Thus management and occupational health care should devote more attention to the psychosocial work environment in order to be able to prevent exhaustion and burnout at the workplaces.